This morning at the conference sponsored by the New School, Limiting Knowledge in a Democracy, Daniel Ellsberg (apparently, according to the moderator/New School prof, few of his students knows who he is, or what the Pentagon Papers were) made observations that were new to me. This is all paraphrased, but I think it is accurate.
He recounted a time in 1969 when he explained to Henry Kissinger what happens when you get the dozen clearances above Top Secret*. What happens first is that you feel like a fool. You've published books that you now discover were filled with stuff that was wrong. You have believed you understood how things worked, but you now find out you were completely wrong, that the real world is entirely different from what you have been told your entire life.
But this stage only lasts a few weeks. After you have been reading this material hitherto unavailable to you for a while, you begin to see everybody else as fools. Only with people with these top level clearances know the truth. People whom you previously regarded as experts become ignoramuses, doubly so because they don't realize that they actually know nothing.
Moreover, you have to lie to the fools constantly, because the condition for your getting access to what is really going on is you cannot tell anybody what is really going on. So after a pretty short time period, your conversation with the foolish experts consists of telling them only what you want them to hear.
This lying is essential to the secrecy. Ellsberg recounted a reporter friend calling him, and asking if there was anything to this Pentagon Papers business (which were in Ellsberg's office safe and the safes of a dozen or so others), he said "No. Never heard of this." You end up increasingly living in a bizarre hothouse.
Which is why batshit crazy things like Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq come to be. Obama has reasons for continuing the Afghan adventure. But he can't say what they are. Eventually we will find out that they made as much sense as Vietnam, and that there were advisers like Clark Clifford pointing out that the war was batshit crazy.
Oh wait, we already know this about Afghanistan and Obama, that there was much said in dissent with McChrystal's escalation.